PORTLAND, Ore. – After putting in a promising performance on the road last week only to come away empty-handed in Seattle, the Portland Timbers ended their five-match winless streak on Friday against the San Jose Earthquakes courtesy of two goals from Diego Valeri in a 2-0 win.
“Diego looked sharp again,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said of the playmaking Argentine maestro, who is rounding into form following a brief spell on the injured list.
“A couple of games back from injury, I think it took him a little bit just to get into a rhythm,” Porter explained. “But certainly this game, he was back to doing what he does: scoring goals and creating chances for us.”
With the brace, his seventh as a Timber, Valeri has eight goals on the season, which keeps him in the mix for the MLS Golden Boot.
With San Jose playing with 10 men following the ejection of midfielder Darwin Ceren shortly before halftime, the Timbers struck gold in the 50th minute, when Zarek Valentin found a streaking Valeri dashing towards the box. Valeri chested the ball to himself before splitting two defenders and coolly giving the Timbers a lead in a game for the first time in over a month.
“When Zarek has the ball, I always look to him because he has a great right foot,” Valeri explained, saying Portland’s right back plays “like a midfielder.”
“He played a very good ball which forced me to do something. It was a great pass,” Valeri said.
With the Timbers threatening to hit a midseason tailspin with the five-game winless run, the home victory brought the Timbers up to a healthy third place in the Western Conference ahead of the rest of the weekend's games.
The secret to the home win? Porter applauded Valeri's impressive showing, especially on the winning goal.
“I’d love to take credit tactically for that great counterattack,” Porter added. “But really what it was, was Diego Valeri pulling off a great play. That’s what you need out of your players.
“When you’re playing a packed defense like we were, that’s what it takes: it takes a special play from a special player,” Porter said. “Someone who can operate in tight spaces. And what a great finish out of him.”